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Meet Scott Birdwell of DeFalco’s Home Wine & Beer Supplies in Loop 610

Today we’d like to introduce you to Scott Birdwell.

Scott, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I discovered beer (and to a lesser extent, wine) as more than just a fizzy yellow boring beverage with which to wash down pizza when I was waiting tables my senior year at Rice. Our restaurant carried five or six imported beers, which, for the time (mid-70’s) was impressive. A couple of years later I spent an entire summer traveling around Europe drinking great beer and wine. I was hooked. Upon returning to Houston I paid a visit to DeFalco’s, a wine & beer making shop in the Rice Village. I had seen some homebrew supplies in the windows of some shops in the UK, so that’s what gave me the idea. My first batch was not great, but it wasn’t terrible, so I had another go at it and batch #2 was much better. After chatting with the staff here (two employees at time!), I was offered a part-time job. I took it! Part-time morphed into full-time, morphed into a managerial position until one day in December of 1980, Frank DeFalco came into the shop and said, “Scott, why don’t you buy this business from me? I’ll finance it.” I couldn’t say “no.” I didn’t say, “No.” I’ve been the owner here since that day (actually a few days later. . .). I’ve been here almost 40 years now (next March will be the anniversary!). I’ve watched the city go from no craft breweries to forty or fifty. I’ve helped a lot of folks along the way and they’ve helped me. I’ve made oceans of beer, wine, cider, and mead since 1978. I’ll never get rich doing this job, but I’ve had more fun at work than almost anybody I know. I have customers who make many times what I make and are envious of my job (and I’m envious of their checking accounts. . .). What a long, strange trip it’s been!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve toiled in a lot obscurity (although not so much in last ten years). If you’re in the hobby business, you’re at the mercy of swings in the economy and what’s trendy and what’s not. More than a few customers have come in on a busy Saturday and decide “What a great way to make a living!” not knowing what it’s like on those very quiet Tuesday and Wednesdays. Surprise! They don’t get rich, either! They do manage to take away customers we have patiently groomed. People hate driving all over creation in this city. I guess I can’t really blame them. Smooth? No! Interesting? Definitely!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about DeFalco’s Home Wine & Beer Supplies – what should we know?
We sell equipment, supplies, ingredients for people who want to make their own wine, beer, cider, mead, cheese, etc. in their own home. We also sell the same things to small breweries and wineries (we give them a noticeable discount). One thing that we provide that sets us apart from our competition is experience and expertise. As I said earlier I’ve been doing this for almost forty years. I have several staff members with 10 – 25 years of experience, too. As the commercial goes, “We know a lot because we’ve seen a lot!” If a customer needs their hand held, we can do that. If they want us to leave them alone while they browse or measure out grain, we can do that, too! We’re hands on!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I’m a good people person. I’m affable. That puts people at ease. Combine that with experience and expertise, we prosper just as our clientele prospers.

Pricing:

  • 5 Gallon Homebrew Starter Kits starting around $100 (that’s around two cases!)
  • Wine kits start around $40 and go from there
  • 100+ recipes from $20 – $65

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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